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New WORLD Internships Offer J-Students Priceless Experience

September 28th, 2011

By Carissa Davis.

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

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Dr. Marvin Olasky connects with students during the September WORLD Week at PHC

The arrival of Dr. Marvin Olasky, the College’s new journalism professor and Distinguished Chair of Journalism and Public Policy, is expanding PHC’s journalism program in exciting new directions. As with every major at PHC, internships occupy a vital part of the journalism program through the real-world reporting experiences they provide. Now that WORLD Magazine’s editor-in-chief has joined the College for classes, events and workshops throughout the year, an even more dynamic pipeline now exists between the Christian worldview magazine and PHC’s journalism department.

The College’s journalism students have long written articles for WORLD and many other local and national publications, but this past summer closer ties between the College and WORLD Magazine were forged. Two PHC journalism majors interned for WORLD Virginia, a new online, localized branch of WORLD directed and edited by the College’s Associate Professor of Journalism, Dr. Les Sillars.

Junior Zachary Abate and sophomore Alicia Constant each spent 40 hours a week pitching, investigating and writing Virginia-based news stories on a wide variety of subjects -- everything from politics to human interest to healthcare to sports. Each produced five to ten stories per week, writing from their homes in other states.

“I have four homeschooled siblings and live in a small house, so finding a quiet place to make a phone interview was… a challenge,” said Abate, a central New Jersey resident. “I ended up working from the one quiet room in my house -- the glass porch. Almost every time I was on the phone with a source, a rooster would casually walk over to the porch, look right at me, and begin to crow. This particular rooster and I developed a very hostile relationship over the course of the summer.”

Even so, he added, “It was a great opportunity to get some experience in the journalism field and begin to build my resume a bit.”

For journalism students at PHC, it’s only the beginning. With Dr. Olasky involved in charting the course of the journalism program, multiple internship opportunities will open for PHC students. Competition will be intense, but student stories may appear in either WORLD Magazine or its high school version, Trak, as well as in online editions of WORLD or in new, Internet-only publications WORLD on Campus or WORLD Virginia. In addition, WORLD New York and WORLD California are scheduled to launch October 1.

WORLD is expanding -- people like what we’re doing, if we continue to do a good job,” Dr. Olasky said. “There are lots of opportunities here to write for WORLD publications.”

“[It gives the students] a chance to have work published in a national magazine,” Sillars said.

 “To get a job in journalism,” Olasky agreed, “the degree is not as important as the clips. I'm really impressed with PHC students. They are godly and smart and articulate. Going forward I really hope there will be all kinds of internships and job opportunities for PHC students at WORLD.”

Students will also enjoy the experience of working personally with Dr. Olasky and his wife, Susan, a WORLD Magazine writer and editor, and an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Writer-in-Residence at PHC. “The students are going to benefit [from the partnership],” Sillars said. “They get to have a chance to work with a nationally known figure… Dr. Olasky has built WORLD into the national magazine it is today. He is a model of journalistic integrity and morality in my own career.”

Long-Distance Journalism

Alicia Constant, junior Journalism major

For Constant and Abate, each week this past summer began by pitching story ideas to Dr. Sillars.

“Each of us combed Virginia online newspapers and the AP database for Virginia story ideas,” Abate said. “While I didn’t have to do on-site reporting, I was tasked with other responsibilities such as editing freelance work, posting articles to the WORLD Virginia website, and helping run our Facebook and Twitter accounts.”

Constant worked from her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “I was at home and writing news for Virginia. I had no idea about New Mexico news,” she joked.

“I found that I like to be around people rather than the telephone,” she said about the long-distance reporting. “But the experience gave me a good foundation and showed me what I like to do.”

Constant also had the opportunity to do some investigative reporting for a local story concerning tax-funded New Mexico charter schools started by a Turkish Muslim. “I got access that Dr. Sillars couldn’t get, since I was on the ground,” she said. The story ended up in the August edition of WORLD, and Dr. Sillars and Constant shared the byline.

“It was the highlight of my summer,” Constant said.

Constant arrived at PHC with experience in journalism, having written for a statewide homeschool publication in high school, but credits PHC with preparing her to write with an integrated worldview. 

“PHC made me think about what it looks like to be a Christian news reporter,” Constant said. “Everyone writes from a worldview. [PHC journalism classes] helped me see how you can be objective and be Christian.”

Abate said that PHC journalism classes helped prepare him for his internship experience.

“PHC absolutely helped prepare me for my internship with WORLD Virginia. The basic journalism classes had given me some experience in meeting deadlines, conducting interviews and pitching stories.”

Dr. Sillars had high praise for both.

“Alicia and Zach did fantastic work,” Sillars said. “They did such a great job that, after about two weeks last summer, WORLD's online editors and I agreed to treat them basically like associate editors for the site, not just interns. They would report and write stories, edit each other's work, write headlines and captions, and then post their stories on the site. All I had to do was check their work over quickly before it went up.”

Chelsea Rankin (junior) also interned at WORLD Virginia this summer, reporting on stories in northern Virginia and writing some cultural analysis. Sydney Thomas (senior) interned at WORLD headquarters in North Carolina.